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Dan Bickley

Eno Benjamin is the latest ‘Cardevil’ to go from ASU to the Cardinals

Running back Eno Benjamin #3 of the Arizona State Sun Devils rushes the football against the Utah Utes during the first half of the college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Cardevils are special. They are the rare Arizona State stars who get drafted by the Cardinals. They are lucky enough to begin their NFL careers in the same cities and markets they once chose for their collegiate happenings.

They are made men. At least for a while.

Eno Benjamin is the latest Cardevil, and potentially a keeper. He’s an undersized, chin-first, shorter than Kyler Murray, heart-pumping workhorse that wreaked havoc between the tackles in the Pac-12. At least he did two seasons ago. Either way, those skills don’t always translate to the NFL.

Like 95 percent of all incoming players, Benjamin most assuredly carries a chip into the NFL. After skipping ASU’s bowl game appearance to protect his NFL career, Benjamin slid all the way to the seventh-round of the draft. His productivity waned in his senior season, but still:

He averaged 5.0 yards per carry on 576 attempts in college football. He caught 82 passes. He scored 31 touchdowns. Those numbers reflect the true spirit of the player.

But Benjamin is rarer still. He’s the type of player that doesn’t need motivation, additional fuel or chips on the shoulder. His ambition is obvious in the way he runs the ball.

He is the first ASU player drafted by the hometown team since the Cardinals selected Pat Tillman with the 226th pick in 1998. That seems like quite a drought, except ASU hasn’t been flooding other markets, either. They have produced just three first-round selections since Terrell Suggs. That must change with Herm Edwards.

The Cardinals rode Jake Plummer to their first playoff berth in Arizona. They famously passed on Suggs in the 2003 draft, prompting radio host Vince Marotta to destroy portions of his living room. And you could almost hear the groans from Tempe to Nashville when the Patriots took N’Keal Harry with the final pick in the first round of the 2019 draft, with the Cardinals waiting on deck, on the clock when the second round began.

“I think it’s not necessarily where you go in the draft, but where you go to,” Benjamin said.

It’s true. Benjamin inherits a great opportunity in Arizona. The Cardinals are committed to Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds, but there’s an open spot in the backfield, as long as Benjamin plays with passion on special teams. But if Kingsbury’s play-calling from 2019 is any indication, there won’t be a lot of carries to go around.

Drake is clearly the guy. For proof, look at Edmonds, who had a breakout game against the Giants in Week 7, scoring three touchdowns on three runs exceeding 20 yards. And he was given only nine carries the rest of the season.

In other words, don’t blame the Cardinals if you end up starting Benjamin on your 2020 fantasy football team.

Like most other incoming rookies, Benjamin will struggle to make an instant impact and assimilate quickly. It could’ve been so much easier for the former ASU star. Without a pandemic, he’d already be working out at the Cardinals facility. Instead, he is back home, working out at his high school in Texas, which granted Benjamin access to the weight room. He said he’s leaning on a philosophy he learned at ASU.

“Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready,” Benjamin said.

Arizona’s seventh-round pick is clearly a valuable asset. He’s got talent, a great attitude and the blessing that comes with staying Arizona, where he’ll never feel alone in a strange place. He also brings the goldmine of goodwill that accompanies all Cardevils.

Benjamin isn’t some anonymous prospect most NFL fans get with seventh-round picks. He rushed for 312 yards against Oregon State in 2018. He has starred in one of the greatest triumphs in school history, scoring three touchdowns, including the game-winner, in a 41-40 comeback masterpiece over Arizona.

He’s a kid worth cheering for. Because we already have. And with any luck, we’re only getting started.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier